Episode 5: Caring for the families of hospice patients

In this week’s episode, Dr. Saul Ebema and Dr. Joe Newton sit down to talk about the challenges of the family members of the hospice patient and how to help them.

When a member of the family is dying, unique problems arise. These problems usually begin at the time of diagnosis. Communications often becomes difficult as family members experience different stages of grief. Early in terminal illness, there are the emotional burdens of learning of the illness and coming to accept a terminal diagnosis, of giving up hope of cure and choosing comfort measures. In addition to grieving for the potential loss of the loved one, there is also the grief for the death of the family unit as it has existed before. Although the family will continue after the death, it will forever be changed by the death.

Talking points

  • Understanding the emotional challenges of the families of hospice patients
  • Some questions for Identifying At-Risk Family Caregivers are
  • Emotional Responses of the Family as Death Nears
  • The process of waiting for the impending death to happen calls upon the family to have some adaptational tasks. Understanding those tasks is vital. As these tasks are being completed, each family member hopefully will attempt to finish unfinished business with the patient.
  • How chaplains can help family members of hospice patients.
  • Recognize the family as a system.
  • Legitimize and normalize the feelings of the family members
  • Encourage family members to express their feelings with the knowledge that emotions that are processed contribute to healing.
  • Identify their feelings and call sorrow what it is- hard and painful.
  • Maintain open communication. Help the patient’s family members identify and cope with the challenges and demands of the living- dying interval. If possible, educate them about the emotional challenges and coping mechanisms available.

Hospice Chaplaincy is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting excellence in spiritual care at the end of life. We are committed to the belief that people from all backgrounds, cultures and faith traditions should experience the end of life in a way that matches their own spiritual/religious values and goals. The task of dying is complicated and often confronts us with lots of spiritual, emotional and physical suffering. Hospice Chaplaincy is dedicated to providing support and professional development resources for hospice chaplains, patient advocacy, and education services to the public, to create a cultural shift to inform and transform our thinking around the psychosocial and psychospiritual issues at the end of life .

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